The Corbyn Comic Book

SelfMadeHero, £4.99

BACK in July, in the wake of this year's General Election, SelfMadeHero made an open call for submissions for comic strips on the subject of the Labour leader and Glastonbury chant generator Jeremy Corbyn. This book is the result. Cartoonists including Steve Bell, Martin Rowson, Hannah Berry and Steven Appelby all offer contributions. Most of them, you imagine, voted Labour in June.

And so as you'd expect from a comic strip predicated on Cobynmania, it is rather preaching to the converted. The odd Doubting Thomas apart (David Hine and Mark Stafford's Uncle Jezza's Bedtime Stories seems to imply that wishing things better isn't going to make it so), Corbyn is presented in a heroic light for the most part (and yes, given that this is comics, there are times when he is super-heroic).

How much you like it depends on your politics. The best strips either gently guy Corbyn's image (the last strip in the book sees Jonesy having fun with flags; a Labour one turns out to be more popular than an Arsenal one. Well, Wengermania has long lost its appeal), or drip with anger at the government.

The result is possibly the perfect gift for that nephew or niece who has recently joined the Labour Party.

Poppies of Iraq

Brigitte Findakly and Lewis Trondheim

Drawn & Quarterly, £16.99


More politics. The thing about kids is you can't pretend they are somehow different just because they come from another country. Children in Britain or the US or Iraq are all the same. Whether they're in Mosul or Motherwell, they all want food, distraction, the chance to make some noise.

If it does nothing else, Brigitte Findakly's memoir of her homeland Iraq, co-written and drawn by her husband Lewis Trondheiim, reminds us of that simple fact. But more than that it opens a curtain into a culture that has been demonised and misunderstood in the west.

Not that this is an apologia for Iraqi customs and culture. Born on the cusp of the 1960s of a French mother and an Iraqi father, Findakly's memoir is the story of a young girl (and her family) butting up against the restrictiveness of the culture she finds herself in; her love of Demis Roussos and Michael Sardou sits alongside her growing recognition of what it means to live in a dictatorship.

Xenophobia, feminist thinking and potato sandwiches are all part of the mix.

Trondheim's art is minimalist and precise, animated by attractive colourwork, but it's Findakly's story that compels. The result is a book that deserves to be filed next to Persepolis and The Arab of the Future.

And while you're putting it on the bookcase leave a space for Diaspora Boy (a large space; it's an outsized book). Using noir, horror and sci-fi tropes, this collection of Eli Valley's comic strips (published by Or Books at £20): explores the relationship between America and Israel.


Valley belongs to the Steve Bell/Gerald Scarfe righteous anger school of cartooning and his scratchy black and white imagery is an assault on what he sees as American complicity in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. This is a book that seethes.


Craig Thompson

Faber, £18.99


Here's a fine thing. A new edition of Craig Thompson's 2003 mammoth graphic memoir. Full of childhood fears and adolescent dreams, wreathed in snow and ice and Bible readings, Thompson's book charts a decade in his life that takes him from being a bullied outsider at school to first love and beyond in a Christian family in the American Midwest.

At almost 600 pages in length, Thompson gives both his story and art ample room to breathe. It is framed as a double narrative; Craig as a young boy and his relationship with his younger brother with whom he shares a bed intercut with the story of his teenage relationship with a girl called Raina that inevitably also leads to bed-sharing.

All of this is framed in crisp black and white imagery that connects characters via meticulously detailed landscape drawings, visual patterning and dream imagery.

What is quietly thrilling is that despite Thompson's ability for cartoony caricature, his storytelling is never reductive. Even the characters whose beliefs he clearly does not share are given nuance and respect.

Ultimately, this is a coming of age story; one that takes in family, sexuality and belief. The result is bittersweet and beautiful, a book in love with the idea that marks on a page can encompass an entire world.

Morton: A Cross-Country Rail Journey

David Collier, Conundrum Press, £17

Outwith music, you could argue that Canada's main contribution to global pop culture is in the area of comic strips. Mostly that is down to the publisher Drawn & Quarterly and the cartoonists (Seth, Chester Brown etc) who are in its orbit.

But D&Q are not ploughing a lone furrow. Conundrum Press in Nova Scotia published James Cadelli's Getting Out of Hope, which we reviewed earlier this year. Morton: A Cross-Country Rail Journey, by David Collier, makes an entertaining sequel in its peripatetic vision of Canada's vastness.

Collier and his family decide to see the country they live in by rail. What follows is a travelogue that plays off the author's impressive historical and geographical knowledge against his casual, "everything-will-turn-out-all-right" approach to logistics, an approach that all too often sees him and his wife and son kipping down in someone's back yard or pitching a tent on a storm-blown island.

It's a journey that does rely on the kindness of strangers. If anything, perhaps, what Morton proves is that Canada is full of that very quality.


Antoine Cosse

Breakdown Press, £14.99

Behind an immaculately designed cover, French cartoonist Antoine Cosse offers readers a comic strip road trip involving a magician, a talking rat, sex and an attempted murder. The story is hazy, evanescent even, and just about there enough to keep you reading. But what really makes you keep turning the pages is Cosse's imagery; a grey wash of rain and road and sky and faces. The result is a European arthouse comic strip.